DCAU #213: Well, Here's Another Fine Mess You've Gotten Us Into!

IN THIS ONE... Booster Gold, Blue Beetle and the Question cross paths with Cipher.

CREDITS: Written by Steve Vance; art by John Delaney and Ron Boyd.

REVIEW: This is one dense comic, first on account of the Blue & Gold story's banter - takes me back! - then the Question's 7-9 panels a page. And yet, there's an unfinished quality to both features. They complete each other only so much. The problem, quite frankly, is that the villains turns out to be Cipher (from issue 1) and he escapes in both stories. The fact that he appears in several issues over the first year of the series only makes me realize how much I don't want him to! A true cipher, he can change his identity, acting the part of a femme fatale against B&G, then a male heavy against the Question, and in neither case is he really using the exact tech we saw him use against the JLA. It's not so bad with Booster and Beetle, who have a different (comedy) mission, but the Question back-up, happening in the margins of the main story, suffers despite its length and dense storytelling style.

But despite all that, I'm so happy to read Blue and Gold's shenanigans again, I can hardly fault the story for its choice of villain. It's great to hear the banter (which the two of them defend with gusto), see Beetle's imaginings of a better version of his life, their competition for the cute girl's attention, and of course, the plot that can't give them an even break. It's like the universe hates heroes for hire, and there's a lot of charm in their struggle.
The Question story isn't a comedy, of course, but instead embraces more of a film noir feel, with purplish prose delivered by the main character. He's an interesting choice to go against Cipher (B&G never actually realize they do), because both are "faceless", and the media mogul connection (McKinney again) works because Vic Sage is a journalist. We're not quite to where the Question will go in Justice League Unlimited, the cool conspiracy freak, but it still feels a part of that universe.

IN THE MAINSTREAM COMICS:
For once, the characters haven't been pulled straight from the 1997 DCU. Blue and Gold play as a comedy duo as they did in Justice League International, though Booster has a little-seen costume of the era. The Question looks like he did in Charlton Comics, having been given a more brutal, leather look after his first couple of DC appearances. The story is set in Hub City like his mainstream series is though. The toxic waste facility, Diversified Industrial Toxins has the acronym D.I.T.CO., a reference to Steve Ditko, who created both Blue Beetle and the Question for Charlton.

REREADABILITY: Medium-High(ish) - These characters are so fun, and well written, it overcomes the story's inherent weakness - its cookie-cutter antagonist.

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